The Myth of Bluffing
 
Successful bluffs, particularly in a high-stakes games, have great drama. Furthermore, people who do not play much online poker games often think that bluffing is the central element of the games. When Stu Ungar appeared on the Merv Griffin Show the day after he won the 1980 world online poker games championship, the first question Griffin asked him was, "Did you bluff very much?" Many occasional players who visit Las Vegas are constantly bluffing in the small $1-$3 and $1-$4 games, and they pay dearly for their foolishness.

It's true bluffing is an important aspect of online poker games, but it is only one part of the games, certainly no more important than playing your legitimate hands correctly. Though a player who never bluffs cannot expect to win as much money as someone who bluffs with the proper frequency, most average players tend to bluff too much, particularly in limit games. When it costs an opponent only one more bet to see your hand, it is difficult to get away with a bluff, for with any kind of hand your opponent is usually getting sufficient pot odds to call your bet - especially if he has seen you trying to bluff several times already.
 
The Toughtful Check
 
And look at the sort of opportunity you might create. Suppose you make a thoughtful check, and your pause causes your foe to pause and ponder, too. What is he thinking now? That you're trying to deceive him by feigning either strength or weakness. Weakness, he finally decides, figuring that you'll fold. But you have gauged his uncertainty and now put him on a steal. He bets to win the pot but you raise! Now his worst suspicion is confirmed. You hemmed and hawed to disguise the real power of your hand and to set up this trap-the very trap he has just fallen into. Now he folds, congratulating himself for, if nothing else, making you reveal the true strength of your hand. What we're talking about is using nuance that you yourself generated to finesse a pot away from your foe.

Perhaps you're familiar with the phrase "Make the latest possible decision based on the best available information." Sometimes a provocative action on your part, even an unusually slow or thoughtful check, will pop loose some information you otherwise wouldn't have had. If nothing else, it moves you out of your behavioral ruts, in which you may be unknowingly, dismayingly easy to read.
 
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